The limp

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It started in July with a limp.

Well, a limp is nothing new to Malcolm and I.  Between Amore and a Dolce and all their combined surgeries, a limp is nothing.  When it comes to the girls, a limp can be caused by a multitude of things.  A bad landing when jumping out of the SUV.  An embedded cacti spine.  Arthritis.

It was a slight limp, no biggie.  Dolce still loved her walks, was still jumping up on the couch and scrambling off the bed.  Dolce still ran after Amore and ran in for dinner.  Her eyes still bright and full of life, it was nothing to be concerned over.  It was just a little noticeable.  Really, it was nothing.

It was a persistent limp.  Like a lingering cough, it just wouldn’t go away.  A vet visit determined it was macro-degerative joint disease or in common language, arthritis.  Not an unexpected diagnosis.  Dolce was a month shy of nine years and in Berner years, this is old.  After shoulder and leg surgeries in her puppy days, arthritis seemed not only plausible but a reasonable conclusion.  Nine years of over compensating on her driver’s side had created complications down the road.  Pain meds were prescribed, exercise was ordered, weight loss recommended.  All geared to help with her arthritis.  We were all over it.

But the limp didn’t go away and by the end of August the limp had worsened.  To the point where Dolce wasn’t putting any weight on her left paw.  Her load-bearing front leg was hitched up and held up, she refused to use it.  Her walks were shortened, her running subdued and awkward.  Dolce was hopping, not walking.  She was panting, not breathing normal.  Her eyes dull, not shiny. She was in pain.  Terrible pain.  Worried, Malcolm and I made an appointment for a Canine Physical Therapist.  A rehab specialist for dogs.  We knew how important it was for Dolce to use her leg, and it was obvious the arthritis had advanced.

One look at Dolce’s front paw and we were told to head straight to our vet.  Something wasn’t right.  Our worry turned into panic.  Another set of x-rays showed the bone configuration had changed.  It was time for a biopsy.

Biopsies are never fun. For neither the patient nor the parent.  Dolce needed to spend  time in the vet hospital, Malcolm and I needed to wait for the results.  We had an unknown. Arthritis is much easier to understand and comprehend.  Humans have arthritis.  Berners have bad hips, e.g., Hip Dysplasia. We could deal with arthritis – but this new unknown threw us off kilter.  We were unprepared.  The “what if’s” and “if so’s”  and “how do we’s” swirled in our heads.  Our discussions were geared around quality of life, and costs, and the unacceptable that neither one of us were willing to say out loud, but it stood out there like the ugly pink elephant in the room.  The only one not affected was Amore.  She was soaking up the attention, having us all to herself.  With one less child in the house, Amore was loving the extra love.  No sharing us, the couch and bed just for her.

It was the end of September when Malcolm called me at work.  I remember it was mid-afternoon and I had worked through lunch.  “Hon, you need to come over to Dr. Gruda’s.”  No hello.  Tersely spoken.  “Let me finish up what I’m working on and I’ll meet you over there.”  “No, honey, now!  I’m already there.”  Click.  Dr. Gruda has been the girls’ vet since he removed their dew claws at two days old.  He has been through every surgery, every sickness, every shot Dolce and Amore has had.  I headed his way.

Our waiting was over.  The biopsy confirmed Dolce had a cancerous tumor entwined between the bones of her left front paw.  On the driver’s side.  Our sweet, sweet Dolce had cancer.  The dreaded big “C”.  Our worse fears confirmed. We were devastated.  “Has it spread?”  “What does Dr. Gruda say?”  “What are our options?”

“Honey, we either amputate in the morning and start chemo ASAP, or Dr. Gruda needs to put her down this afternoon. We have to make a decision.  Now.”  There was no question in my heart as to what we should do, but there were so many more concerns to discuss.  Monetary issues being one of them. Surgery and chemo wasn’t going to be cheap.  Less than college but a whole lot more than braces would cost if we had kids. Does anyone want to put a price on a life? When does it become too much? Chemo treatments might only extend her life by 18 months or so. Was it worth the expense? Dolce had just turned nine.  With a life expectancy of 7 to 10 years, we were in her bonus years as it were.  What if her hips go out.  Or her other paw?  What if the cancer had spread? What if? What if? What if?  I was a wreck.  Malcolm was my rock.

With a deep breath and a choking gulp, I told Malcolm I wanted to amputate.  I wasn’t ready to let Dolce go.  I just couldn’t do it. My sweet, sweet baby was still good everywhere else.  She still had heart.  She still had three mostly good legs. We walked inside the vet’s office and signed the release.  I am thankful Malcolm felt the same.  Surgery was scheduled for early the next morning.

And just like that Dolce is now a three-legged canine.  Her limp turned into gimp.  Although in pain from the surgery, Dolce’s breathing evened out, her eyes went back to bright.  Dolce no longer suffered with pain.  My little trooper was a bit unsteady, wrapped in bandages and gauzes, and wobbling on three legs, but was able to come home a week later.

It’s been ten weeks since surgery.  We are on the last leg of chemo treatments and slowly building up Dolce’s stamina.  She is gaining her confidence back, growing stronger, and learning a new kind of balance. Her walks are longer and just this Thanksgiving weekend, she ran past us while out on the trail. A first.  She struggles with stairs with over two steps, and with positioning her back legs.  She still needs assistance getting up on the bed but can jump on the couch like an old pro.

All in all, she’s a healthy canine and is accepting of the circumstance.  We tease her and call her Peggy, Gimpy  and Tripod.  She jokes back with a push between our legs.

Its a new life.  For all of us. But we have our baby.

 

happy pawlidays!

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pawliday

grand marshal

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Amore and Dolce have always been our ‘go-everywhere’ dogs.  Where we go, they go.  To the store, into town, over to friends, the girls tag-along.  And, it never fails, where they go, they attract attention.  I mean, come on, two big Berners?  Sittin’ side-by-side?  Tails a-waggin?  Loopy grins on their faces?  A day doesn’t go by without Malcolm or I receiving some type of comment on the girls.

Take them to the store and immediately Dolce and Amore jump into the front seats as we exit the vehicle. Other store patrons chuckle over seeing our two dogs, respectfully sitting upright in the driver’s and passenger’s seats.  dolce-in-drivers-seat

“Beautiful dogs,” “Love your dogs,” “What kind of dogs are these,” “Can I pet them?” are words heard regularly, as we load our groceries into the car.

On occasion, we spy people discretely pulling out their phones to snap a quick pic of our prom queens in their limo. They always say it for someone else.  Yeah, right.

Amore and Dolce soak up the attention.  They paw and preen, even do the leaning thing against stranger’s legs as they are ooh’ed and ahh’ed over on our walks.   In an instant, they are the Grand Marshals of the parade.  All important.  All expectant of the praise. Passing out doggy smiles and paw waves like they were throwing penny candy to the spectators.

A few weekends ago, Malcolm and I took the girls up the mountain to hike around in the Aspens. It was a truly beautiful day.  The leaves had already initiated their pageantry of yellows, oranges, and reds as we headed up the trail.  The sky was crystal blue.  The air crisp with the scent of pine boughs and cones.  Amore and Dolce were in canine heaven. New scents and a new trail were theirs for the taking.  Along with more adoration from strangers.

I doubt we had gone more than twenty yards up the trail, when we were stopped by a group of tourists asking about the girls.  “What kind of dogs are they?”  “Can we take a picture with them?” We paused for the Kodak moment.

Another thirty yards and we were hailed by a family with young children.  “Can I pet the doggie?” a brave little lass asked in a small voice.  With nods of permission, she stepped forward to give Dolce a small caress on her head.  Dolce, sweetheart that she is, laid down at the sneaker-clad feet of the little girl, rolling over for a belly rub. Giggles erupted from the child as Amore licked her face.  Little ones are a favorite with our girls.

The next mile was broken up with no less than eleven groups of hikers all asking about our dogs, slowing down our parade up the hill.

In betwimg_0127een, Malcolm and I tried for our own photo-op of our dogs.  I had visions of the perfect Christmas Card.  The girls had visions of more dog worshiping.  Of them.  By others. Cuz they don’t get enough love at home.  NOT!

Every time we stopped for a selfie, people would stop to pet Amore and Dolce. Every time we would strike up the band to move on up the trail, strangers pumped us with questions about the breed of Amore and Dolce.  Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade through New York moved faster than we were getting hiking up the trail.

When we heard there was a small creek up ahead and around a bend, we made that our destination.  The girls would be able to wade in to cool off.  Malc and I would be able to scout for suitable location for our holiday photo shoot.

With the creek in sight, I found a good-sized boulder to pramore-creekop against, the girls found the shallow water, and Malcolm found a fellow hiker to take a few pictures.

Click.  Click.

“Come in closer.” Click.

“No, closer.”  Click.

“You’re too far away.”  Click. Click.

That’s the great thing about digital pictures.  You can delete all the crappy ones and it hasn’t cost you a thing.  Outmalc-amore-creek of 50 or so pictures, we actually had quite a few that were decent.  A couple were card worthy, a few were blog worthy.

The best ones were with our Grand Marshals.  Amore and Dolce were the hit of the parade.

 

 
dolce

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happy campers

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Like most pet owners, nothing brings us more joy then seeing our beloved four-legged children happy.  And we go out of our way to bring them nothing but an abundance of happiness and comfort.  We buy them special treats and toys, make sure they have soft cushiony pillows to sleep on, take’em on walks.  We love’em, pet’em, provide for them.

Malcolm and I have found a simple scratch behind the ears and Dolce is in ecstasy.  Eyes closed, you just know she is in heaven.  Amore adores a rough love down.  Rub her sides and back haunches like a deep massage and she is in bliss land.  One of the few times she’ll stay still.

They go berserko when it’s time for their hikes, initiating a barking frenzy until loaded into the car.  365 days a year we take them out to the Galisteo basin for their daily walks.  Through rain, snow, wind and cold, we suffer for their happiness.  Our girls love the cold.  Us, not so much.  But we do it cuz we know how much joy it brings them.

“Man, Amore was one happy camper when she spotted a jack rabbit on our hike today!” Malcolm relayed to me when I got home from work.  “She took off after it like a shotgun blast!  Of course, she only ran about 40 yards before she tuckered out.”  Malcolm chuckled over the memory.  “She came back all shiney eyed and excited!”   Amore is our scout, always on the look out for adventure.

Over the years, we have narrowed down Dolce and Amore’s happy list to three main activities. We are talking happy camper activities here.  Total happiness.  Total joy. Two of the three are seasonal.  The third is daily.  And just so you know, treats are a given so they aren’t on the list.

Snow.

There are no two ways about it, Amore and Dolce love the snow.  On occasion they even sleep in it, only to come inside covered with white and hop on the bed at four in the morning shaking off the wet debris.  Snow days are happy camper days.  The girls would live and breathe snow if it was available on a regular basis.  So we bundle up like Ralphie in the Christmas Story movie and take them to play.  We freeze our asses off, along with our noses and our toes to watch Dolce make snow angels and Amore run through the powder like a dolphin.  Their joy brings us joy.

Then there is our harvest.

About every four or five years, if we are lucky enough, come late August through October, we get apples.  Our girls love apples.  No, you don’t understand, they loooove apples.  Love to snap those shiney red orbs off of the low hanging limbs.  Love to lay down in the cool shade of the branches and stock pile the fruit.  And they love to eat’em.

The second she hears the portal door opens, Dolce is out, with Amore on her heels.  They’ll beeline down to our lone fruit tree and burrow into the apple-laddened nirvana. I’m serious here, this tree is their heaven.  You can see their eyes fold back as they tug an apple off it’s mooring.  We watch as they each back up, apple in their mouth and drop the red fruit onto their growing pile of fruit.  Like a kid in a candy store, Dolce and Amore don’t know which apple to chomp on first.  The girls are in their element and they couldn’t be happier.

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On a daily basis, Dolce and Amore bring happy to our hearts.  And, on a daily basis, Dolce and Amore get their third happy.  It’s their special time that has become a ritual.

I like to get up early, get ready for work, and then enjoy a cup of coffee before leaving to head into town.  I feed the girls, grab a mug and read a bit on my iPad.  One by one, Amore and then Dolce come by for their early morning snuggle.  First Amore, always a bit restless, she’ll hop up on the couch lay her head down for a few minutes and then go search out her next adventure.   A scratch on the belly, a rub behind the ears and she is off and running.  Then it’s Dolce’s turn.

Dolce knows the drill.  She positions herself on the sofa, backs up into the couch pocket and gives me the nod.  She knows with a certainty, I’ll gently pull her back into my arms.  It her cuddle time.  They say dogs don’t like to cuddle.  They lie.  My Dolce could stay for hours nestled besides me.  For the next 40 or so minutes, Dolce is in her happy place, content with nuzzles and hugs.  And me…….

I really don’t get much reading done, but I am one happy camper!

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May

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It always amazes me how fast time flies.

As a family with only dogs and one fat cat, Malcolm and I find that most days merge into weeks into months into years as life speeds by.  Those days tend to be a blur of memories, mostly good ones, mostly happy ones, but mixed in with the fond remembrances are the harsh realities of life.

Earlier this week Malcolm and celebrated our anniversary.  As we reminisced our married life, memories of our early days brought forth giggles and laughs over old jokes, old adventures, and old ‘remember when’s. It also brought saddened smiles of other anniversaries.  Our ‘borrowed’ kid, Sam, and our first child, Tiamo.  One was our nephew, the other our beloved Bernese Mountain Dog.  Both were ‘firsts’ in our lives.

May is the month we honor Moms, congratulate Grads, and celebrate Anniversaries.  And May is the month we remember those who have left our lives but not our hearts……


 

Malcolm and I don’t have children – we have dogs.  Use to be three, now two huge, wonderfully sweet, spoiled brats.  Both of us were in our forties when we meet and married, well beyond the age to consider kids. But still young enough to fall into the pet trap.

Like most parents with real kids, Tiamo, our first Bernese Mountain Dog, was easy to raise and didn’t give us any trouble.  Much. We spent hours training her, socializing her, correcting her, loving her.

Santa Fe is a dog friendly town, permitting canines on leash most everywhere and we took her everywhere that allowed dogs.  She was part of our family, we were part of her pack. There was never a time she wasn’t with either Malcolm or I.

Tiamo would sit at our feet, under the table, while we sat outside eating lunch at the local cafes and bistros. She loved to watch the other patrons, always hoping there might be other dogs around.  She was so well-behaved, little nippers would climb all over her and she loved the attention.  She loved people and other animals, especially Thugs.

But most of all, she LOVED Sam.

Sam was our nephew and was loved like a son.  In so many ways, he was the kid we never had.

Sam at sunset - AZ

One freezing cold January day, Sam arrived in Santa Fe. He arrived shirtless, in shorts and wearing flip-flops. He planned to stay for a short weekend visit. He was passing through New Mexico on his way to life.

I had never “truly” met this nephew of Malcolm’s. He attended our wedding, but like most brides on the wedding day, I didn’t remember much. As for Malcolm, it had been years since he had any true contact with him. Short emails and such, but no one-on-one, face-to-face conversations. In truth, neither one of us knew Sam very well, and me not at all. Neither one of us knew what to expect. I have no doubt Sam felt the same way.

Sam was 23 years, not even a quarter of a century old, and traveling through his life. While both Malcolm and I were fast approaching the half-dollar mark and getting ready to slide down the other side.  Sam was just starting on his expedition, his life’s trek. We were winding down from ours. We were poles apart on where we all were in our lives, in age, in experiences, and in goals. Somehow we managed to find common ground and meet in the middle.

My plan was to cook up a storm, for in my experience, food solved all dilemmas. Sam was in his early twenties, an age when all males ate a lot, extra servings and seconds, so double batches were required.   I went to work in the kitchen.

Malcolm’s plan was to show Sam around town, drive up through the mountains, expose Sam to the wonders of Santa Fe. Malcolm gassed up the SUV.

Sam’s plan was to document life through his travels, videoing his journey, recording his thoughts. He had graduated from college and his young artist’s soul was begging to be set free and loose in the wilds. His jump off was Santa Fe. He had tricked out his truck and camper into a cozy living area. He jimmy-rigged a camera mount on his bicycle to record his wanderings, pulled some money from his savings and had a full tank of gas and ideas. Ready. Set. Go.

He never left Santa Fe. One week later, after living in his truck at the Wal-Mart parking lot, Sam moved into our household, taking over the guest bedroom.

I had someone new to spoil, while  Malcolm had someone new with which to impart wisdom and advice.   Not having kids, we loved the fact he came diaper free and with manners.  He was trained.  We bonded quickly and the three of us became a family. We loved Sam – Sam loved us. Sam was special. Unique. We “adopted” him without any hesitation.

When Malcolm was turning fifty, I surprised him with a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy.  Born on Thanksgiving Day, Tiamo joined our new family when she was eleven weeks old. We all instantly fell in love with her, especially Sam. Although, I think he originally saw her as a chick magnet with four legs and fur.  I mean, seriously, what female under 80 and not blind, would not fall in love with a Bernese puppy! For that matter, Sam was a hottie. What female under 30 and/or blind would not fall for a tall handsome Texan.

Sam took part in Tiamo’s training.  He assisted in walking her, grooming her and teaching her to sit, along with other commands. Sam would volunteer to bring Tiamo to the vet when she needed her booster shots. He took care of Tiamo when we went away for travel and trips. Sam was Tiamo’s third caregiver. The two of them were inseparable.

When Sam later moved into town, I think he missed Tiamo more than he missed us.  I know Tiamo missed him something fierce.  She would go absolutely bonkers when Sam came to visit and wouldn’t leave his side.  Malcolm and I were ignored. For Tiamo, Sam was it.

Tiamo would have this goofy grin on her face when Sam showed up.  Her eyes would light up and she would prance around, showing off for Sam.  Sam always brought her a treat.  Something special just for her.  It got so every time Sam came, she would immediately reach for his pant’s pocket, nosing her muzzle, sniffing for her treat.   Sam never failed to disappoint her.

Tiamo was the happiest when the three of us were together.  Sam, Malcolm and I. Plus Tiamo. She would grab her toy of the week, gnawing on it while laying at our feet, listening to our voices as we caught up on our lives.  Her family together, Tiamo was happy and content.

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Tiamo

Sam loved the outdoors.  Even on the coldest of days, he and Malcolm would sit outside, watching the sun disappear behind the horizon, enjoying a glass of wine, a bottle of beer, discussing life.  They would pull up two old wooden rocking chairs to the edge of the portal, facing west, and observe the sky’s colors as they faded from brilliant blue to fiery orange to pitch black.  Tiamo at their feet.  They would still be talking as the stars turned on their lights, twinkling from above.  Tiamo was content to be with her “boys”.

Some nights, Malcolm and Sam would light a small fire in the clay Chiminea for warmth.  Other times, they would gently rock their chairs to the cadence of their conversation, low murmurs that would tease Tiamo into a soft sleep at their feet. During the summer months, Sam and Malcolm would take Tiamo for midnight walks after it had cooled down from the day’s heat.  Tiamo happily trotting along besides the two of them. Plainly said, Tiamo LOVED Sam.

When Sam was 27, he passed away. The first year, after Sam’s death, was the hardest.  Malcolm and I had to re-adjust our family back down to two with a dog. Along with Tiamo, we had to re-adjust to never seeing Sam again.  We all mourned.  We all missed Sam.  Like barbed wire twisted around our hearts, we felt every razor-sharp prong squeezing into our grief and sorrow.  Our hearts were bleeding, bruised and beat up. Tiamo’s was as well.

The following spring after Sam’s death, I started a memorial garden.  West of our covered portal, in full view of the day’s end, I planted flowery shrubs, bushes and flowers in every color to remind us of the sun winking good night.  Fiery reds and oranges, brilliant blue hues, twinkling whites and luminous purples. Cheerful yellows and soft pinks. Bright colors to reflect life’s wonder. Colorful shades of nature reminiscent of watching the sun disappear behind the Sandias as all of us conversed. A salute to our loved ones. A nod to Sam. We missed our Sam, but are so thankful he joined our life for what little time we had with him.

We have since laid flagstone, moved the clay Chiminea pot to the middle of the stonework and added more wooden rocking chairs. Birdhouses and yard art are scattered around to commemorate the joy of life.  Sam’s life. Bright colors surround the garden, flowers edging the stone’s perimeter. Pinon, pine trees and junipers providing the shade and adding a wind break.  It has become a happy place. It is a continual work in progress.

Tiamo was half way through her sixth year when Malcolm and I had to put her down.  Cancer.  Heart-wrenching.  Sad.  Deep. It was early May and we had two weeks to prepare for the finality of losing her.  We had been through the grief of losing Sam. Now we were going to go through the heartache and anguish of losing another beloved child.

There was no question that we would bury Tiamo at home in our Memorial Garden. A place where Tiamo would sit at Sam’s feet as Malcolm and Sam watched the sun set. Malcolm had chosen an area in the garden where Tiamo loved to lay while Sam and Malcolm chatted, solving the world’s problems.  Under a big juniper tree, he started to dig her burial plot.

As Malcolm prepared Tiamo’s final resting spot, Tiamo laid by the deepening hole and watched, silently giving us her acceptance of what was to come.   She was ready.  We were not.

We didn’t want to let her go. Memories of her as a puppy, remembrances of Sam “borrowing” Tiamo to assist him in picking up long haired co-eds, recollections of Tiamo sitting at our feet while on the portal, flooded our hearts. Our beautiful Tiamo was in pain. No more walks on the green belt, no more belly rubs at night, no more trips in the car. We knew it wouldn’t be long.

Our veterinarian had told us we would know when to bring her in. “When it’s time to stop the suffering, you’ll know,” she said, her eyes filled with sympathy.

Malcolm and I felt like we were playing at being God, making the decision about when to end Tiamo’s life, when to “bring her in.” “When it was time” turned into “then it was time” way too soon. With tears in our eyes and a heavy, burdened heart, we put Tiamo down. Again, Malcolm and I deeply grieved.

When we bring pets into our lives, we come to the understanding that, most likely we will outlive them by many years. Most likely there will be many other pets in between. We had already put Thugs down, our aging cat of nearly twenty-two years. Malcolm and I accepted that. Hate it, but know it, and know this is life.  This is the harsh reality we all go through.  Damn it hurts.

We buried Tiamo in her favorite spot, shaded by junipers and surrounded by color, facing west to watch the sun set.  She is deeply missed.

I would like to believe Sam and Tiamo are high in the sky, in their happy place together.  Tiamo has her “Sam” to play with, sniffing out an endless supply of treats from his pockets, prancing around in a field of soft green clover.  Sam has Tiamo, keeping him company while he enjoys the fresh air and outdoors.

We miss our kids.

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lassie

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How come

with just a few barks

everyone can understand

that Lassie is saying

Timmy fell down the well

but with my endless whining and gnawing

you can’t understand

that I am saying

I’d rather the earth swallowed me whole

than go out in public wearing this raincoat

     by Francesco Marciuliano


After Dolce spent weeks at the vet’s recovering from her several surgeries last summer, she returned to us with a new vice.  Her days rubbing paws with other canine inmates manifested into a  penchant to be heard. In the 53 days spent at the vet’s healing, Dolce learned how to bark.  Loud.  Often. And for no reason.

This is no Lassie bark.  This is no “the house is burning down and I’m saving you” bark.  It’s not a doorbell bark or a TV bark or a car just drove up bark.  Nope.  This is a trumpet of deafening, abrasive clamoring.  With no translation. No explanation.

Now, Tiamo, she had a few Lassie bark moments.  She would come down into the den as Malcolm and I watched TV and do the bedtime bark shuffle.  She would stand in the doorway and back up as she barked three times.  It was nine o’clock and time for me to come to bed.  Nine o’clock on the dot.  She never missed the dot.  Three sharp barks with exclamation marks.  She would then race back to the bedroom and wait for me.

Once Tiamo came down to the den calling out to us with an excited yawp.  There was enough bellow in her bluster to give us pause.  It wasn’t nine yet, there had been no yelp from the TV, we were curious as to her behavior.  I followed her back up into the kitchen and discovered Thugs, our old and aging cat at the time, had gotten himself stuck on the counter and could not get down.  He had expanded all his energy in his jump up and now found himself without the stamina to climb down.  Thug’s days of enterprising activity had long passed him by.  He had twenty years of hard living behind him and his life style had catch up to him.  Tiamo just wanted her buddy safe, down on the ground where she could look after him.

Another time, another barking frenzy, Tiamo came to warn us the replacement mousers had knocked over a glass vase full of water.  Not only was there water all over the table and floor, but shards of glass was everywhere.  Her mayday kept our bare feet from being sliced up.

But Dolce, she just barks.

Bark.  Bark.  Bark.  She knows only one word.  Bark.

It’s all about context.

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selfies

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In the wake of social media and networking apps came selfies.  A high angle shot held steady by a selfie stick or an arm stretched to the high heavens, selfies are designed to appear casual and natural.  No airbrushing, no photo-shopping, and more importantly, at no cost.  Selfies exaggerate the size of ones eyes and minimize any double chin you may be working on.  The appeal of selfies came about from how cheap and easy they are to create and share.  Almost instantly.  The best part is the control they give the self-photographers over how they look.

It’s safe to say Kim Kardashian is officially People magazine’s queen of selfies.  She has legitimately earned the crown by taking Twitter, Instagram, and other just-click-here media outlets very seriously.  She even has her own set of selfie rules she adheres to. Not a day goes by without some comment, tweet or article rambling on about Kim’s latest picture post.  Well, move over Kim, there is a new bitch in town.

It didn’t take long for selfies to cross-over into the canine world.  Doggie self-portraits are popping up all over the internet in dog blogs and pet sites.  Pup pics, pooch Polaroids and puppy photos are filling up Instagram and Twitter accounts.  Pinterest is over-flowing with dog selfies.  Do a quick google search on mutt mugs and thousands of images of Fido selfies can be found.

The selfie trend took hold right around the time the girls were born and Amore jumped on the Instagram craze like a house on fire.  At three weeks, Amore took her first selfie.  A shy peek-a-boo portrait with big puppy eyes and paws. DSC00596

Next came her pensive selfie.  Two months old and she already knew her good side.

AmoreAs Amore aged, her posturing adapted to her personality.  Her selfies emphasized her crazy, the photos defining her complex individuality.

Amore peeking from the front sure that something better is happening in the backThe selfies continued.

DSC00331 And continued.   Amore went selfie happy.  No photo went unposted.

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She had only one rule.  She had to be front row and center in the picture.  She didn’t share film or credits.

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Snow only brought out more opportunity for snapshots.

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To our dismay, our cute little Amore had turned into a selfie slut.

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say CHEESE!

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Last year, I found the cutest red velveteen holiday collars for the girls.  They were adorable, dark red collars with tiny little bells attached.  Both Amore and Dolce loved ‘ em!  Didn’t want me to take them off in fact.  Amore and Dolce paraded around loving the little tinkle of the bells. They would fight over who got to put on the first collar I held out for them, nosing out the other for first dibs on getting the collar on.

They were so cute, I was bound and determined our Christmas picture card would be of our precious dogs with their collars on.  The perfect photo-op in mind, I envisioned pinons with snowy boughs in the background, our blue skies above and there in the forefront of our beautiful Southwest backdrop, would be Amore and Dolce sitting side by side with their matching collars on. It so didn’t happen!

misbehaving models

If Dolce was still, Amore was looking off somewhere besides the camera.  If Amore was behaving, Dolce had her eyes shut.   The girls just didn’t want to sit still and smile for the camera.  They didn’t want to sit side by side and they didn’t want to pose.  On top of my canine models not cooperating, we didn’t have any snow in the background, nor blue skies on the day we took the shoot. Malcolm, my dog wrangler for the day, laughed at the impossibility of my efforts. My christmas card was doomed from the get-go.

I promised myself this year would be different.  This year, our Christmas picture card would feature Amore and Dolce shoulder to shoulder, smiling for the camera with their beautiful red velveteen collars on.  And some snow!  Fate was on my side.  Our first snow drop arrived mid-November.  Malcolm and I took the girls for their photo shoot as soon as the roads were plowed.  Once the girls were tired out from their first of the season’s frolic in the snow, I started clicking.

Digital cameras are great.  Since we don’t have to pay for developing film like in the old days, the pictures are essentially free. It doesn’t matter how many bad shots you take, how many pic’s are deleted, somewhere in the day’s photo session there would be a good to great shot.  Between cropping and tint adjusting, I was sure I would have the perfect photo.

And I would have.  Had I remembered to find and bring the collars.

DAMN and Double Damn!  blogI had my perfect shoulder to shoulder, smiling dog photo sans the collar.  I had the snow sans the snow-capped Pinon trees and blue skies.  I went with it.  My models behaved just enough for me to get that one out fifty perfect photo.  The cards went out anyway.  Mailed to family and friends, posted on the website to my blogger buddies.

We were fortunate to see more snow flakes over the Christmas weekend.  I grabbed my sweet dog wrangler and the camera, loaded up the dogs and headed out for another photo shoot.  This time with the collars.

It’s not often I’m able to get Amore to sit still!

Dolce

Dolce

before the angle roll

before the angel roll

After creating the snow angel comes the snow shake

After creating the snow angel comes the snow shake

snow chumping

snow chomping

Dolce between photos poses

Dolce

Dolce

I’m all set for 2015!

 

 

paw prints

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We had our first snow of the season last Sunday. Not much. Not like what they received back East anyway.  Maybe two inches. In Santa Fe, two inches of snow is enough to shut down the entire City Different.  If we’re fortunate for the snow to fall on a school day, it’s a bonus day of sleeping in a few extra hours and driving in to work at a later hour.  Government offices and schools then follow a delayed schedule. Four inches of the white stuff will see me working from home for the day.  Malcolm and I live outside of Santa Fe and the few token snow plows never seem to find their way out to us.  It’d be different if one of our five esteemed County Commissioners were a close-by neighbor.  Sadly however, that’s not the case.  Hence, we suffer through snow-covered roads and are dependent on the sun melting our way to town.

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Last Sunday it snowed just enough to bring the girls out to the Galisteo Basin to play. There was just enough to leave a distinguishable trail of paw prints. Just enough for our dogs to chomp and bite at the powder.  Just enough to roll over in and make snow angels.  And just enough snow to enjoy life to its fullest.

 

Dolce was in heaven.  Dog heaven. Doggy snow heaven. Our furry little snow bunny immediately ran to find a gentle slope to toboggan down. Her enjoyment comes from plopping on her stomach, rolling over on her back, shaking her booty with a little wiggle to start the move and sliding down the incline.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Repeat.  Until she tires.  It’s never-ending.

DSC01125Then there’s Amore.  She runs.  Just for the hell of it.  She loves to feel the cold snow on her paws, sniff out the fresh scents, bite at the snow as she speeds over the snow.  I wish I could catch on camera the times she trips over her two front paws while she tries to grab at the snow and run at the same time.  Head over heels, she shakes it off and runs again.  She just loves to run.

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Amore is at her happiest when at full throttle, barreling down on us. On a good day, and if we are lucky, Amore will put on the front paw brakes within two inches from our knees. On those days when we aren’t so fortunate, we hobble back to the car after being wiped out from a 100 lb. beast.  Last Sunday was a good day.

And last Sunday – it was a perfect play day for a first snow.  It was a perfect day to make paw prints.  And it was a perfect day to enjoy life.

blog signature 2-25-14

 

You choose!

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Help!

I’m sending out an S.O.S. to all of you.

I need your help!  Help me choose the best photo from the final round of photo edits.  How do you choose the absolute best Kodak moment? How do you pick just one photo out of literally hundreds of images when they all have special meaning?  Especially when each impression, each picture is so expressive.   Here’s where you get to help.

After sorting through over 800 plus photos of the girls, I was able to narrow down the first round of cuts to over 60 pictures.  The second round of edits was much harder.  I scrutinized the pics over and over.  I agonized over similar images, clicking back and forth and back and forth before finally making the selection.  I would click for a larger view, toggle back to the other photo, resort the order, review the pictures again, place the images side by side and then chanted, “enny, meanny, minny moe”.  The final click deleted the next 45 or so of puppy pics.

Leaving the last round of selecting the best photo to you.

The past five months between work, travel and life, I started writing another book.  I know, I know, am I crazy or what?  But crazy or not, I’m at the “designing the cover” stage and need your assistance.  Scroll down and view the final round of possible cover pictures.  Imagine each photo on the cover of a dog tale story and place your vote!  Leave a comment, offer your reasons, or suggest something different.  Let me know your thoughts.

To help you, here is a brief description of my soon-to-be published book.

Meet Tiamo, Amore and Dolce; three, 100 pound, beautiful Bernese Mountain Dogs, whose adorable, funny antics will bring chuckles and smiles and sometimes a few tears as you read their tales.  True stories, hilarious escapades, and entertaining dog adventures, all chronicling their heartwarming, and many times, humorous capers…. along with their playful frolics that often land our fearless canines in the dog house. Touching and tender, amusing and comical, these moving narratives and snippets of their lives impart bow-wow wisdom and show the loyalty and love between man’s best friend and their care-tenders.

Photo 1 - Amore and Dolce

Photo 1 – Amore and Dolce

Photo 2 - Amore

Photo 2 – Amore

Photo 3 - Amore

Photo 3 – Amore

Photo 4 - Amore

Photo 4 – Amore

Photo 5 - the three musketeers

Photo 5 – the three musketeers

Photo 6 - Amore and Dolce

Photo 6 – Amore and Dolce

Photo 7 - Amore and Dolce

Photo 7 – Amore and Dolce

Photo 8 - Dolce

Photo 8 – Dolce

Photo 9 - Amore

Photo 9 – Amore

Photo 10 - Amore and Dolce

Photo 10 – Amore and Dolce

Photo 11 - Amore

Photo 11 – Amore

Photo 12 - Amore

Photo 12 – Amore

Photo 13 - Amore

Photo 13 – Amore

Please vote for your favorite photo

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betcha can’t…

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Betcha can’t eat just one

A few years ago, Lay’s Potato Chips threw down the gauntlet in a new advertising campaign:  “Bet you can’t eat just one!”  It was a clever slogan–and had a clever commercial to match.  But I think the line resonated so much because it’s true.  It’s quite difficult to eat just one potato chip.  You tear open the bag and, before you know it, you’ve somehow eaten the whole bag.  Even when you didn’t think you were all that hungry.

Popcorn, potato chips, peanuts.  It’s pretty hard to stop at eating just one.  They’re hard to resist.  These salty little snacks are downright addicting.  Just try having only one peanut or just one chip.  It’s not gonna happen.  Thinking that you are just going to have one handful of popcorn, turns into two and three and four grabs into the popcorn bowl until there is nothing left but salt and kernels.  Peanuts – try tossing just one peanut in the air to catch in your mouth.  Within minutes you’ve thrown a dozen or so nuts up high, tilting your head back and opening your jaws wide to catch em’ on the down swing.

I give a half-ass attempt in not keeping any chips or peanuts in the house and let me tell ya’, it’s really hard to do.  Along with ice cream, I purposely don’t add snacks to my grocery list.  And yet, somehow, I find my shelves lined with microwave popcorn and Planter’s nuts.  Cheetos, Frito’s and Ruffles fill the cupboards and there is Chocolate Chip ice cream in the freezer.  I blame it on the weekends.  And Malcolm.

Weekends are for errands, exercise and extracurricular activities.  It’s when Malcolm and I run into town to do odd tasks we can’t get to during the week.  It’s when we are able to swim and/or work out at the club and it’s when we have friends over for a get-to-gether.  Inevitably, as we are heading home on the freeway after running around doing errands or from swimming, Malcolm will look over at me sitting in the passenger seat, and with an expectant look on his face.

“Know what I’m thinking?” he’ll ask.

“No, what?”  Of course, by now, I should know what he is up to.

“I’m thinking we should stop at the store and get some ice cream?” Malcolm looks at me with hope in his eyes.  He senses my hesitation.  Before I can voice any veto, he continues, “You can pick out what flavor you want,” adding incentive for me to give the okay to stop at the store.

“All right,” I cave, thinking I’ll swim extra laps the next day.  “But I want Chocolate Moose Swirl and you have to go in to buy it,” I tacked on my conditions for bringing the forbidden ice cream into the house.

Other times, we’ll stop at the grocery store to pick up something for dinner and walk out with a bag of chips.  Midnight snacks include popcorn with Tabasco sauce and butter and during the summers, we’ll sit outside under the portal, cracking open the roasted shells as we sip our beers, eating peanuts.  Yep, it’s hard to keep snacks out of our household.

So the other day when we were driving home from swimming and Malcolm looked over at me with that same expectant look, asking, “know what I’m thinking?” I knew he wanted to stop at the store.  It was almost noon and I didn’t have much on hand for sandwich makings’.  I geared up for the big ask but I already knew I was going to relent since I was craving some Crunchy Cheetos.  I put on my “not-gonna-budge” face.

“No, what?”  I braced myself.  Since it was lunch time, I just knew he wanted the full spread.  Popcorn, potato chips and peanuts.  The three “P’s”.

“I’m thinking we should have another puppy,” Malcolm glanced over at me, watching for my reaction.  Unfortunately, I had just swallowed a big gulp of water.  My mouthful of water sprayed all over the dashboard.

“A puppy?” I croaked, mopping up the spewed water with my shirt sleeve.

DSC00596“Another kid?” I questioned.  Malcolm and I were late bloomers.  We didn’t marry until we were both in our forties and children weren’t truly an option.  Our dogs were our kids.

“Are you serious?” I asked.  (No, I did not shriek, I politely asked).  I had thought once or twice about having another puppy, another Berner, but had been hesitant in bringing up the subject.  I figured it would be a few years yet before we were ready for another dog. Amore and Dolce were still going strong.  When we had Tiamo, along with the girls, raising three dogs was a huge commitment.  Vacations were out of the question.  Weekend trips were a big hassle.  Finding a puppy-sitter we could trust, the expense of it all, took a toll on the joy of being away from our girls. A puppy would only add another layer to our lives.IMG_6953

“Well, yeah,” Malcolm sheepishly replied.  “This time it would be different,” he swore.

“Different how?” I wondered.  We would still be back to three dogs.  Three huge dogs.

“For starters, this puppy wouldn’t be allowed on the bed!” Malc exclaimed.  “It’ll be trained, like we trained Tiamo, not like the girls!”  I chuckled over that statement.  Amore and Dolce mean well, but they do have excitement issues.  Tiamo was so well-mannered, so well-behaved, we just assumed Amore and Dolce would be as well.  Even with training, Amore and Dolce are hellions only a mother can love.

“What brought this on?” I queried.

“I just want another one,” Malcolm said.  I wondered if this is how married couples discuss having another child.

“Don’t you remember all the chewed up shoes, all the torn library books, all the middle-of-the-night-keep-me-company times?”  I poked at his memory.  “You sure you want another child?”  IMG_7010

“Well, yeah,” Malcolm repeated.  “It doesn’t last forever.  They grow out of it.”  Dolce and Amore’s “terrible twos” lasted four years.  In dog years that’s 28 long years.

“When were you thinking of bringing on this addition?”  In other words, how many years apart do you want the kids to be?  Amore and Dolce are working on their sixth birthday and unfortunately, Bernese Mountain Dogs have a short life expectancy.  The average life span for a Berner is seven to ten years.  Tiamo was with us less than seven years.  In Berner terms, the girls were getting up there.

“Well, not for another year or too,”  he answered.  I relaxed a little bit. “But you can’t just stop at one!”  Malcolm added.  My thoughts turned to the Lay’s potato chip “Betcha can’t eat just one!” Nope, you can’t just stop at one.  Even though the word “puppy” was added to the forbidden snack list, and is now part of the four “P’s”,  I know without a doubt, in another year or too, a puppy will be brought into our household.  Snuck into the house when my back is turned.

We exited the freeway at our turnoff, puppy conversation over.

ahhh, we didn't eat that much!

“Wanna stop and get some ice cream?” I heard from the driver’s side.

 

 

blog signature 2-25-14

The black hole

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A sock goes missing.  Pens disappear.  Keys that were just in your hand are gone.  Eyeglasses lost.  The creamer that you placed on the kitchen counter after pouring yourself some coffee, vanished.  Your cell phone misplaced. The next scene shows you scratching your head as you wander around your house looking for the no-where-to-be-found items. Geez, you just had’em, where could they be?

You’re not senile, you’re not losing your mind, it’s not loss of memory, but damn, where could they be?

In my case, it was my cell phone.

At 6:30 a.m.

On a work day.

I checked my car, under the seats, between the console looking for my missing phone.  I re-checked my purse and all its pockets that has been my designated personal filing cabinet – no luck.  I’m not crazy, I just placed my whole connection to my life, my friends, my business associates on the table and now it’s  gone.  AWOL.  At first I was puzzled.  What did I do with my phone?  I just had it.

I retraced my steps, back tracked in my mind the rooms I had just been in.  I checked the coat I were wearing last, under pillows, behind cushions.  No where.  I patted down my back pants pockets, my front pockets, my chest pockets (phone shelf) and came up empty.  I grabbed my husband’s phone and dial my number only to hear nothing, not a peep.  I forgot that I had shut it off.  My photo album, my phone book, my email list – gone, gone, gone.  Now I was getting anxious.  Where was my phone?

The clock was ticking and I needed to be on my way to work.  I needed my phone.  I had a committee meeting and wanted to be a little early to work to set up the conference room.  I still had a little time but wanted to be on my way.   Amore was picking up on my anxious state, following me as I went from room to room hunting down my cell.  Dolce was nowhere to be found.

I have to admit, especially since I am talking a lost phone, I went from puzzled to anxious to frantic in about 60 seconds flat.  Maybe less.  The sounds from my heels tapping against the brick floor started clicking faster and faster in my desperation to locate my cell.  I was in frantic mode.  Amore was stirred up.  Dogs seem to pick up on their human folk’s emotional state and Amore had zeroed in on mine.  She started to run through the house barking her way from one end to the other.  Her barks were a beacon for Dolce, calling her in from the outside.  It’s standard procedure between the two of them, if one dog barks, the other will join in the chorus singing back-up.  The duet woke up Malcolm.  Crap!

“What the hell is going on?” a blurry eyed Malcolm growled.

“Can’t find my cell phone,” I tersely replied.  I was frustrated.

“And I need to get to work!”  I added.

“Try the pen.  Dolce has been frantically coming in and out of the pen for the last 15 minutes, making a racket with the dog door” he mumbled as he rolled back over in bed, pulling the covers up and over his head.

The only common wall between our dog pen and our house is in our master bath.  In our infinite wisdom, we placed the dog door in the bottom half of our linen closet in the bathroom.  It was brilliant move on our side.  The dog door is discrete, tucked inside the closet.  We can close it off any time, putting the lower shelves back in place and we can shut the door to either lock the dogs outside or in, depending on the situation.  It was also a stupid move on our side.  During the monsoon season of the summer months, Amore and Dolce track in mud and muck throughout the bathroom and into our master suite. During the winter months, they track in snow.  And, the worse of it, we hear the girls coming and going as the door flap swishes back and forth and back and forth.  Of course Malcolm heard the loud swish and swoosh as Dolce entered and left through the door as he laid in bed.

I trooped around the back to the dog pen, Amore and Dolce following close at my side.  Yep.  there lay my cell phone, under a dog-tagged bush.  Thankfully unharmed, unscathed.  Dolce was the culprit.  The phone perpetrator.  Our thief.   There was the beginnings of a hole being dug to the left of my phone.  Fresh dirt nosed into a small pile, letting me believe the evidence that Dolce was going to bury her prize, my phone.  That might have been a first, a dog buried cell phone. Her muzzle still had a sprinkle of dirt around the nose.

I wasn’t in the mood to laugh about it.  I snatched up my phone, wiped off the remaining dirt and hi-tailed it to work.  Later, after my committee meeting, after I was home from work, after my sense of humor kicked back in, I could chuckled over Dolce and the black hole.  Later, Malcolm and I would have a hoot over what else might be buried in the dog pen, laughing about what else is missing.

But not now!

Now, when something is missing, the pen is the first place we look.

found!

found!

For more tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823

1000 words

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Like most high desert living, it’s either feast or famine.  We either have an abundance of snow or a dribble of water.  Our last snow fall was just days after Thanksgiving.  Edging closer towards February, the only patches of white left to be found are in remote arroyos facing north or under dense juniper branches.  Dolce and Amore’s snowy playground has all but disappeared……

Amore and Dolce - perfect angels!

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buffy

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City of Paris Dry Goods Company's Christmas tree -  a Christmas tree so big, it reaches the top floor!

City of Paris Dry Goods Company’s Christmas tree – a Christmas tree so big, it reaches the top floor!

When I was little, every November, my mother would take us girls into the city to go shopping.  Christmas Shopping.  Major get out the card, shop til’ ya drop type of shopping.  In one day, in one fell swoop, get it all done kind of shopping.  We lived in a small farming community in California, so a trip to San Francisco meant a grand adventure for my sisters and I.  It meant having a fancy lunch and if we were lucky some See’s chocolate!  It meant a ride on the cable car and some taffy candy down at the wharf.  It meant seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and huge ships in the bay.  But a shopping trip in November meant going to the City of Paris Department Store and seeing their five-story tall Christmas tree, a true wonderland for my eyes.

I remember one year, all of us kids got new Christmas togs.  New, not a hand-me-down-four-times-doesn’t-quite-fit-it’s-too-short Christmas dress, but brand new.  New, not home-made or sewn, but tags still on new.  A Christmas dress from the City of Paris.  I still remember that dress.  It was blue with red xylophone bars across the front and down to the hem line, gold cording over the bars.  It was a Buffy dress.  TV’s Family Affair, Buffy Davis wore one just like it in the show.  Oh how I loved that show and how I loved that dress.  At the time, I was six and a half, pudgy with freckles across my nose, a scraggly pixie hair cut and missing two front teeth.  Not exactly the cutest kid in the class, but when I put on my Buffy dress, I magically transformed into a princess.  A Buffy princess.  I’ve always believed, at some point, young or old, every girl needs a Buffy dress.  Something that makes their inner self shine, something that lets them feel beautiful and special, inside and out.

The other day, while at out and about at one of my favorite little shops in Santa Fe, I found the perfect Holiday outfits for Dolce and Amore.  And, I couldn’t resist.  Had to have them.  Didn’t care that Malcolm might get just a tiny bit cranky over some frivolous doggy purchase. Come hell or high water, I was buying.  I had found the ideal Buffy attire for them.  Something to make them feel beautiful.  Special.  Like a Buffy dog princess.

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Dolce loved her Buffy collar so much she wouldn’t let me take it off her.  Amore carried hers through out the house (I think she liked the jingle jangle from the little bells).  And Malcolm, he grabbed the camera to take pictures of our beautiful princesses.  He thought the collars perfect canine attire for the holidays!

Here’s to the Buffy in all of us!

For delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823

snowflakes and mud

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A tired dog is a happy owner!  And nothing tires out our girls more than snow.  Play time in the snow is probably Dolce and Amore’s number one favorite doings.  In the life of a dog, there is nothing better than a full belly, a warm bed and a romp in the snow.

A week after our big snow dump, most of the snow has melted but there are still patches to be found, snow angels to be made and fun to be had!  On the lookout for fresh snow, Malcolm and I took the girls on a new trail at the Galisteo Basin Preserve this weekend.  We knew the snow was getting thin, but certainly didn’t anticipate the amount of mud we would encounter.  Snow melt brings slush, and then comes the mud.   And more mud.  And then more mud.  As we swished down the trail, accumulating thick mud on our boots, Dolce and Amore took off like the wind.  They smelled fun!  They got a whiff of excitement and ran ahead like a bunch of banshees, barking for the sheer joy of dawggy play time!

Dolce immediately sniffed out a sizable plot of snow and began her rattle, roll and shake.  Angel time!  Amore followed suit, building her own snow angel.  Then it was a race to the next patch of powder.  They ran through Juniper and Pinon, leaping over small gulleys and rain carved-out arroyos in search of more snow.  They found it – along with a lot of mud, returning with mud capped paws and more.

The mud and the muck is worth it.  The look on their faces, the expression in their eyes – there is nothing more joyful than watching them play and seeing unadulterated happiness shine back at you.

Amore and Dolce - perfect angels!

Amore and Dolce – perfect angels! (not)

the race is on

the race is on

muddy paws and all

muddy paws and all

twist and roll!

a twist and a roll in the last of the snow

happy dawg

happy dawg

grins and smiles

grins and smiles

SNOWFLAKE COOKIES – a favorite at Christmas!

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes, snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes, silver white winters that melt into springs, these are a few of my favorite things!

  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup sifted all-purpose flour (do not use self-rising)
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 6 oz. chocolate chips – melted (and a few extra to nibble on)
  • Star shaped cookie cutter
  • powdered sugar

Mix sugar, butter, egg and vanilla well.  Mix together flour, baking powder and salt.  Add to the butter mixture.  Let chill in the refrigerator for an hour.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out the chilled cookie dough on a floured board and cut into star shapes.  Place on an un-greased baking sheet and bake for 6-8 minutes.  Remove from oven when lightly brown.  Completely cool.

Place some melted chocolate in the middle of a star cookie.  While chocolate is still warm place another star cookie on top with the star points alternating with the bottom cookies.  Add a small dab of chocolate on the top cookie and sprinkle powdered sugar lightly over the finished cookie.

Keep under lock and key – husbands and dogs are  known to swipe one (or two!)

shake, rattle and roll

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Sunday morning we awoke to a good nine inches of snow.  Throughout the night, a blanket of pristine white had covered our southwestern landscape.  The girls loved it – especially Dolce.  Her favorite winter sport is making snow angels.  She has perfected the art of finding the perfect spot to drop and roll, wiggling her paws for more leverage, then leaping up to shake off the snow dust.   Shake, rattle and roll, or I should say, rattle, roll and shake.

The girls played until Malcolm and I couldn’t handle the cold any longer.  Our cheeks rosy from the below freezing temps, our fingers near to frozen from the numerous times we had to take our gloves off, we lasted a mere 60 minutes before heading in to the coveted warmth of a roaring fire and some hot homemade soup.

searching for the perfect spot

searching for the perfect spot

dropping in the snow

dropping in the snow

the rattle and the roll

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the shake

the happy snow angel maker

the happy snow angel maker

Salute to the first snow of the season!

WILD RICE WITH SMOKED SAUSAGE

perfect for cold snowy days – serve with a savory herbed scone or biscuit

  • 13 c chicken broth (low sodium)
  • 1¼ c wild rice
  • 6¼ c frozen corn kernels (about 2½ lbs.), thawed
  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. cooked Kielbasa or Polish sausage, cut into ½ inch cubes/slices
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced (or minced)
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 1½ c half and half cream
  • 1 c fresh parsley, chopped

Bring 5 cups of chicken broth to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Add wild rice and simmer until all the liquid evaporates and rice is almost tender, about 45 minutes.   In a food processor, take 4 cups of the corn kernels and 1½ cups chicken broth and puree. Continue until smooth. You might need to do this in batches.

Heat oil in heavy, large cast-iron pan. Add sausage and sauté until brown, about 5 minutes. Add onions and carrots and cook another 3 minutes. Add remaining chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Simmer for another 20 minutes.  Add cooked wild rice, corn puree and rest of corn kernels. Continue cooking until rice is tender, about 30 minutes.

Soup can be prepared up to this point two days ahead. Refrigerate.  Reheat soup over medium heat. Once heated, add half and half.   Ladle into soup bowls. Sprinkle chopped parsley over top.

 

For more delicious recipes and tails of the dogs, purchase If it falls on the floor, it’s mine! cookbook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/0615869823

goofy girl

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goofy girl!

our goofy girl!

Amore is a goof ball!  A total clutz.  A true ditz. A ham for the camera.  A jester for the court.

There are times we think for sure she hit her head on the side board of the whelping pen as she was dropped into being.  She has fallen off the couch more times than not, thunking to the floor as she was stretching while on her back, surprise lighting her eyes as she tries to pretend that was her intention to begin with.  She has chased after phantom bunnies and the shadows of high soaring hawks only to run into low-hanging juniper branches.  She would rather have her throat scratched than her belly rubbed and would rather run than walk, even if it is just to move from one favorite spot to another, five short feet over.  If you say “sit”, she hears “shit” and will begin the triple-axel spin to find the perfect spot.  Give Amore the signal to “go to her pillow” and it’s a sure bet it will be your down-pillow that she lies on.

She has no idea how to cuddle, coo or be calm.  Wild-eyed, Amore will stare at you, and stare at you, and stare at you, never blinking, not moving, just stare at you.  Intently. Don’t try to out stare her – you won’t win.

One of Amore’s favorite antics is waking us up on weekends. The first attempt is a strong paw to your most extended limb poking out of the covers.  The next try is a wet, and cold, nose nudge, usually on your neck or face, many times on your mouth.  The final act is a jump on the bed, normally with your sleeping body softening the landing as her front paws hit your stomach.  At this point, Amore will typically sit on you, and the bed covers, trapping you underneath her.  I don’t mean sitting on one of your legs, or leaning up against your side.  I mean a take-your-weight-off-your-paws-park-yourself kind of stay awhile sit.  By now you might be awake, but you ain’t going anywhere til she decides to let up.  It’s best to get up at the first pawing.  You can’t help but chuckle to yourself as you spit out dog hair off your lips while pushing her off you.

Her latest gimmick is scouting for lizards.  She’ll stand at attention, staring for hours waiting for a lizard to crawl up our portal wall.  Upon sighting a scaly blue-tail, she’ll  run and take cover, barking for one of us to come and see her find.  Occasionally, Amore will actually catch a lizard, only to bring it into the house so she can play “search and seizure” with the now let-loose and tail-less reptile.  Not that I want a loose lizard in the house, but at least Gordita (our fat cat) will catch the lizard once Amore starts to fatigue from the game.

Goofy? Yes!  Silly? Absolutely!  Hyper? Undoubtably! But our goofy girl is one of the happiest dogs I ever seen.  And, we are the lucky ones to have her adventures in our lives.

it’s here! (almost)

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if it falls on the floor, it's mine!

COMING SOON! 

missing mom

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June is one of those transition months for the dogs.  The days are longer, hotter, and walks for the dogs are delayed to the evening hours, when it starts to cool down.  More often than not, Dolce and Amore are left at home, not wanting to leave them in the car during the hot hours of the day as Malcolm runs into town for errands.  Malcolm and I are busier.  Between work, travel, meetings, weddings, graduations and Saturday night dinners – it seems we’re gone more than we’re home.  The girls feel the effect of our busy schedule.  Flanked among boredom, and long hot days, they alternate between being sluggish during the hottest part of the day to being antsy when the tedious hours of lonesomeness labors on.  Their daily schedule has shifted to accommodate June’s higher temperatures and our demanding agendas.

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Amore laying her head on my lap after I was gone for 2 days

We can easily spend forty or so minutes calming them down as we enter the house after being away.  Both Dolce and Amore get clingy, wanting us right by them, touching us with their paws, nose nudging our hands and elbows.  They just want our touch.  A hand resting on them.  A constant scratch under the chin.  Fingers endlessly rubbing their fur-lined ears.

The usual scenario is a furry body on each side of me, so close a sheet of paper couldn’t slide between us, my arms around each one.  If I so much as move a finger away or twitch an eyelid, they’ll nudge me with their powerful paws as a reminder to pay more attention to them.  Their hind ends burrowing in even deeper into the corner pocket between the couch and my hip, their bodies leaning into me, I have 100 lbs. of deadweight dog resting against me on each side.  They each have their spot – Dolce on my left, tucked in close under my arm and shoulder, Amore on my right, plastered to my side, head resting against me.  I’m somewhere in the middle breathing in dog hair and fending off paws and noses.

Tomorrow I leave for a conference and will be gone for a week, leaving Malcolm home tending to the girls.  I can only imagine my homecoming.

 

fetch and catch!

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Our dogs do not fetch the newspaper.  They do not deliver your fuzzy slippers, nor do they catch the ball.  Throw a soft rubber ball for them to run after to retrieve and you’ll get a look that says, “you want me to do what?”  Under their dog breath I hear a mumbled doggy version of:  “Pendejo, you threw it, you go get it!” Toss a stick up ahead as you’re walking,  it will go completely ignored.  Fling a frisbee and it will become part of the landscape.  Labs, Retrievers, Setters, they all love the game of fetch and catch.  Tirelessly.  Endlessly.  Dolce and Amore – NOT!  Not even close!

What they will run after is another pooch pursuing the thrown object.  Throw some balls and immediately the other visiting mutts sprint over to play. Throw a stick, and Amore and Dolce will run after the dog running after the stick. The game is in following the other canines, not racing after the ball.  We’ll take the girls to our dog park, lob some tennis balls their way and they’ll sit at our feet watching us, their heads cocked at an angle, inquiring with a puzzled look, “wha’cha doing?”   As soon as another dog moseys’ over for some fun, the girls perk up, ready to chase the some tail.  Much more fun than chasing a ball!

They will however chase after food.  Chuck an apple twenty yards and Dolce is on it.  Pitch some broccoli out in the field and it’s a race to grab it first.  Drop a bread crumb and it doesn’t even hit the floor, gone and gobbled before you can bend down to pick it up.  The one and only ball they will fetch and catch is a meatball!  Lob, toss, fling, throw or drop a tasty, rolled meatball and it’s caught mid-air in one gulp, down the hatch and in the gullet.  Eyes alert and on the “ball”, they are ready for the next toss.  Ready to catch it!  Ready to race after it!  Ready to eat it!  Any kind of meatball, any kind of meat.  It’s the only fetch and  catch they’ll play!

Swedish Meatballs

Be careful not to drop any on the floor!

  • 1 lb. finely ground beef
  • 1/2 cup fine dry bread crumbs
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup minced onions
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/8 tsp. pepper
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg

Mix together the above ingredients.  Gently roll into small 1″ to 1 1/2″  balls.  Brown in hot oil.  Add about 1/4 cup hot water.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.  Serve hot with slightly thickened pan gravy.